In defining addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states “(addiction) is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long-lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who use drugs.” Importantly, they add, “Because addiction is a chronic disease, people can’t simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Most patients need long-term or repeated care to stop using completely and recover their lives.”
Given substance use is a treatable condition, it’s important for those who have a substance use disorder (aka addiction to alcohol and/or drugs) to seek out effective treatment regimens that address the addiction itself, as well as prevention and management of recurrent use. Finding an accredited, quality-conscious treatment facility can make an essential difference in one’s likelihood of success in recovery.
Even from one’s initial experience entering an addiction treatment center, there are certain elements one should look for, which are summarized below.
In general, because addiction affects so many facets of a person’s life—from the ability to identify self-sabotaging attitudes and behaviors to establishing and maintaining a productive role in society—good treatment focuses on many dimensions of the individual, including the state of one’s mental and emotional health, as well as one’s roles in the family and workplace.
A quality treatment program can include a number of components, which are often deployed in combination and are likely to change over the course of one’s recovery:
- Detoxification, conducted under medical supervision, may be needed; this will be determined during one’s intake and evaluation phase of treatment.
- Medications that reduce or counter the use of illicit substances are suitable for some people, while in other cases medications may be used to target co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression.
- Motivational Interviewing, which is a short-term counseling process to help a person resolve ambivalence about treatment and find and hold onto incentives for change.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help a person recognize and cope with situations that trigger the desire to use substances.
- Group therapy and other peer-support programs leverage the direct experience of many to support individual recovery, provide educational insight about the nature of both addiction and recovery, and offer resources aimed at preventing the recurrence of substance use.
- Family therapy can help repair any damage done to family relationships and to establish more supportive ones.
- Life skills training, including employability skills, where necessary, may be part of an individual’s treatment plan.
- Good treatment programs also feature the regular monitoring of individual progress.
Flexibility can be a key component to how treatment proceeds. Fortunately, the vast majority of quality treatment programs make addiction treatment available in a variety of settings, from an outpatient clinic to a long-term residential facility. There is certainly no one right approach for everyone, and there is evidence that one’s commitment to change is more important than the type of treatment program he or she selects. Here (see below) are a number of other features to look for to identify an effective, quality-conscious treatment program:
- Patients undergo comprehensive medical and psychiatric screening.
- Treatment addresses individual needs, including co-occurring conditions, for example, chronic pain, anxiety or hepatitis.
- Families are involved in the treatment process.
- There is continuity of care, via active linkages to resources in subsequent phases of recovery, including follow-up care.
- The facility maintains a respectful environment regarding all aspects of staff and patient relations.
- Treatment services are evidence-based and reflect best practices.
- Staff members are licensed and certified in the disciplines they practice.
- The program is accredited by a nationally recognized monitoring agency.
- Patient response to treatment is monitored and the program or facility offers outcome data reflecting treatment performance.
Since a person’s success in recovery—if they go into treatment for a substance use disorder—is quite likely to be directly affected by the quality of the treatment facility, it is essential that one take the time to research and identify local treatment programs that reflect the highest standards in the areas mentioned above. By doing so, one ensures they’ll be well supported in building the best possible foundation for their ongoing recovery.